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Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace?

Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace?

Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace?

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      In my coaching practice, I am increasingly looking for ways to work with my clients on shared documents and projects online. I am looking to online solutions for two reasons:

      1. It allows my client and me to access documents and work on them collaboratively at any time. My clients are busy people who need the flexibility to work on their own schedules.
      2. My practice includes long-distance coaching using telephone, IM (Instant Messaging) etc. When we need to work on or exchange documents, PDF, email, and fax are ineffective tools.

      We want to be able to set up an online workspace to work on documents and projects in one place. We must be able to:

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      • Post and edit documents online;
      • Automatically sync our calendars (esp. Outlook), with online calendars and visa versa;
      • Merge online calendars into group calendars to see at a glance when every individual is busy/free;
      • Post discussion threads;
      • Receive email or SMS (‘text’) alerts whenever any of the first three functions (documents, calendars, discussion threads) have been changed or added to by group members.

      Pretty simple right? You’d think so. I went to the first two places that I knew offered some or all of these services: Google & Microsoft. Big disappointment.

      Google Groups

      The Good News
      It’s free. That’s hard to beat. And Google has two other strengths as a place to get work done: a) it is fully web-based, and b) there is a wealth of various tools.

      Being web-based means that not only can you store and view documents, discussions, and calendars, but they can also all be edited and shared right in the browser. No client of any kind required on your computer (other than a web browser); no need to ever download anything unless you want to sync items for work off-line.

      A particularly powerful tool is the Forms function available through the Google Spreadsheet. This allows you to create a survey that can be set up in a number of different ways and tie it to a spreadsheet that collects the response data. I have used it several times and love it. It does not have the power and ‘polish’ of some of the dedicated online survey offerings (like those from Constant Contact), but it is secure, flexible, and free. Google Forms has a basic template collection that allows you to set up your survey or questionnaire in a number of attractive ways with minimal design time.

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      The wealth of tools available on the Google site is truly impressive. Google Groups, Docs, Calendar, Google Talk (IM), Blogger, Picasa, on and on… But that brings me to…

      The Bad News
      For such a wealth of tools, the lack of integration floored me. Put simply, there is almost NO way of using one tool in an integrated fashion with another. Want to list your shared Google Docs in a Google Group? Can’t do that. Want to sync your Google Calendars to create a shared group calendar within Google Groups? Can’t do that either. Want to embed a Google Docs spreadsheet in a Google  Docs document? Nope. The list of what you can’t do goes on and on.

      Recommendation:
      Use Google if you want a free tool to share work online, but don’t expect much. The lack of integration at this point in the game is frustrating. It is especially odd as Google has on its hands a very powerful collection of individual tools. It makes no sense that they aren’t better integrated.

      Windows Office Live

      The Good News
      Probably the two biggest positives with the Microsoft tools are that a) they are pretty tightly integrated with Microsoft Office (especially Office 2007) and b) there is much more storage space available (5 GB vs. Google’s 100 MB).

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      If you have an Office Live account, which is free, you can save your Office (Word, Excel, etc.) documents directly to your online workspace. There you can invite others to view and edit them.

      There is notification available for most kinds of activity in an Office Live workspace.

      The Bad News
      While the various tools are more tightly integrated via the copy of Office you have sitting on your computer, the net useability is no greater than the Google offering. The weaknesses fall into three areas:

      • Anyone accessing documents on your shared workspace must own a copy of MS Office for full editing and integration functionality. This ‘Microsoft customer only’ restriction is a serious one. There is probably a level of useability with Open Office, but that is still a far cry from the platform independence of Google Documents.
      • There is no way to edit online. This means that if you are on the road, you can’t easily get at your documents from an internet café or most smart phones (not that editing Google Documents from a smart phone is any picnic, but at least it can be done).
      • The calendar integration is a nightmare. I have spent hours trying to figure out how to set up a calendar on Office Live that syncs with my Outlook calendar. Not only does that not work, it took me forever to find where my calendar does go when I ‘publish’ it online (it goes to a site with the address starting calendars.office.microsoft.com, which is not linked to from the rest of the Office Live site that I can find). And you can’t sync two ways. You can only sync your online calendar to Outlook, not the other way around. That is a serious limitation for a ‘live’ group workspace.
      • Another weakness is the confused relationship between Windows Live, Office Live, and Office Live Small Business. Oh wait – there’s also Microsoft Groove! The distinction between these offerings is unclear, and there doesn’t seem to be any integration between Windows Live (things like Messenger) and Office Live. Further, the distinction between the different ‘Lives’ is unclear. At least in Google, what exactly each tool is for is clear, even if they don’t play well together.

      Conclusion?

      The tool I want does not exist. Given the huge number of players in this field, and the explosion of interest in virtual, collaborative learning and working, I’m surprised. I looked at some for-pay sites as well, like Central Desktop. This certainly does the job better than either Microsoft or Google, but still doesn’t do some of the basic functions (like syncing and merging multiple calendars). Considering that Central Desktop charges a fee I would expect it to have serious bells and whistles. Not so. I am assuming that somewhere out there, living inside some high-end intranet, there is a proprietary tool that does this, but it certainly isn’t available to the rest of us.

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      So what’s the conclusion? We have to use separate tools to cobble together a collaborative virtual work space: Microsoft has pretty good Office integration (with the glaring exception of the Outlook Calendar), Google has lots of good separate sharing tools, Tungle does a fantastic group calendar, Central Desktop does a decent job but charges.

      If I had to pick one system, Google’s is probably the closest. Google is pretty good at syncing calendars in ways that you can share, at hosting blogs, storing and editing documents right in the HTML/Web environment, and providing a very basic shared space in Google Groups. No other site offers all of these “in one place”. But then that’s the biggest frustration with Google, their’s isn’t ‘in one place’ either. You have to hop from Calendar to Docs to Blogger to Groups and back again to get a sense of what your group is up to. How a site could house all of these tools separately and not bring them together in one interface is a complete mystery to me. They even have the interface already – set up a tabbed version of iGoogle and see what I mean!

      Google isn’t resting (or rather sitting) on its laurels. There is a new sharing project in early development called Google Wave that allows users to share ideas, files, documents, video and audio in real time (think IM) and asynchronously (think ‘posting’). Now if they could integrate a real group calendar function, and fully editable Google Docs into that, we may be getting somewhere!

      I am really looking forward to reading other’s solutions in the quest for shared virtual workspaces.

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      Last Updated on July 31, 2018

      40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2018 Updated)

      40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2018 Updated)

      Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

      There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

      Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

      It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 40 best productivity apps for iPhone to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

      Productivity apps to help you get things done

      1. OmniFocus

      This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

      Download it here.

        2. Forest

        Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

        Download it here.

          3. Things

          Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

          Download it here.

            4. 30/30

            Recently covered here at Lifehack

            , 30/30 is a newcomer to the game that incorporates lists and timing of tasks into an elegant and easy-to-use interface.

            Download it here.

              5. Any.Do

              A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

              Download it here.

                6. PocketLife Calendar

                This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

                Download it here.

                  7. Asana

                  We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                  , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                  Download it here.

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                    8. ToDoist

                    This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                    Download it here.

                      9. FlowTasks

                      From the folks at MetaLab, Flow is a gorgeous collaborative task management app that is easy-to-use and incredibly functional.

                      Download it here.

                        10. Calendars 5

                        This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track and complete your to-dos.

                        Download it here.

                          11. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                          A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                          Download it here.

                            12. Due

                            A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                            Download it here.

                              13. Checkmark 2

                              I use this app

                              for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and a valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                              Download it here.

                                14. TeuxDeux

                                Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — Teux Deux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then Teux Deux will be right up your alley.

                                Download it here.

                                  15. Wunderlist 

                                  Another incredibly popular choice is Wunderlist. Part of 6Wunderkinder’s software family, it sports a gorgeous design and is incredibly functional. We’ve talked about the app a couple of times here at Lifehack, so check those posts out here.

                                  Download it here.

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                                    16. Nirvana

                                    For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                                    Download it here.

                                      17. Priorities

                                      An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                      Download it here.

                                        Productivity apps that help you build habits

                                        18. Productive

                                        With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                        Download it here.

                                          19. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                          You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                          Download it here.

                                            20. Streaks

                                            This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                            Download it here.

                                              21. Remember The Milk

                                              Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                              Download it here.

                                                22. Day One Journal

                                                When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  Productivity apps that makes organization easy

                                                  23. Evernote

                                                  Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    24. Pocket

                                                    You can save an article, video or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                                    Download it here.

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                                                      25. Sync.Me

                                                      This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        26. Droplr

                                                        One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          27. Dropbox

                                                          Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive in your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            28. iDolly 

                                                            In conjunction with Dolly Drive and DollySync, iDolly allows you to edit and share your documents from your iPhone.

                                                            Since all your changes sync automatically to all your devices, the current version of a document will always be accessible because Dolly Sync keeps everything in sync. Very handy.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              29. Soulver

                                                              It may seem odd that a calculator app shows up on this list, but this is no ordinary calendar app. Ben Brooks over at The Brooks review describes Soulver as follows: “It is what calculators would have been if they were invented at the same time computers were, instead of what we have with most calculator apps.” [3]

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                Productivity apps that help you work smart

                                                                30. Captio

                                                                A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  31. Drafts

                                                                  A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things and more.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    32. NoteShelf 2

                                                                    This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                                    Download it here.

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                                                                      33. Doodle

                                                                      This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        34. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                                        I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          35. Launch Center Pro

                                                                          A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            36. GoodReader

                                                                            This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                              37. LogMeIn

                                                                              Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                              Download it here.

                                                                                Productivity apps that improve security

                                                                                38. 1Password

                                                                                There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                                Download it here.

                                                                                  39. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                                  You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                                  All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass autofills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                                    40. Truecallers

                                                                                    Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                                      There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                                      Reference

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